Mouth scotch while sleeping can be dangerous, experts say

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Social media platform TikTok has helped spread another potentially dangerous idea: tape your lips together to stop mouth breathing at night.

“If you have obstructive sleep apnea, yes, it can be very dangerous,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of California Keck School of Medicine. South.

Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the complete or partial collapse of the airways, is one of the most common and dangerous sleep disorders: more than a billion people between the ages of 30 and 69 are believed to have it. affected, according to a study published in 2019. in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine. Millions more are undiagnosed, experts say.

“There is limited evidence on the benefits of mouth tape and I would be very cautious — and even talk to your health care provider before trying it,” Dasgupta added.

Yet none of the TikTok videos seen by CNN mentioned that the practice could be harmful in any way.

A young woman touts the benefits of restful sleep as a reason to lock up her lips every night.

“I tape my mouth shut every day. …Sleeping properly is really important for fighting aging and looking and feeling your best.

Despite the downsides of painfully losing facial hair or damaging the soft tissue around the mouth, another TikTok video recommends “plain old paper tape.”

“I know there are a lot of fancy tapes on the market, but you don’t need this. You just need that little square right here on the lip.

This could all be called silly, except one video seems to spawn another as people complete the challenge. One woman couldn’t even remember why she started sticking her mouth together at night:

” To be honest, I do not know. I saw on TikTok and can’t remember what the benefits were. But it helps me stay asleep!

As with many things “discovered” by TikTok presenters, mouth scotch is not New. People have been looking for ways to shut up at night for years, and with good reason. Mouth breathing can lead to snoring and excessive thirst at night, as well as dry mouth and bad breath in the morning. Over time, breathing this way is linked to gum disease and malocclusion, where the upper and lower teeth do not line up.

In childhood, when the tendency to mouth breathe often begins, the condition can cause the child to develop a “mouth-breathing face” – a constricted face with a receding chin or jaw, according to the Cleveland Clinic. . Children are also at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea, which has been linked to learning difficulties and childhood behavior problems.

Journalist James Nestor allowed scientists to plug his nose with silicone and surgical tape for 10 days to see exactly what mouth breathing would do to his health. As he described in his book “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art,” the impact was incredibly rapid. He developed obstructive sleep apnea, his blood pressure, pulse and heart rate increased and his blood oxygen levels plummeted, sending his brain into a dark fog.

“We had no idea it was going to be this bad,” Nestor told CNN in 2020. “The snoring and sleep apnea was so dramatic, and it happened so quickly, that everyone was pretty floored .”

According to experts, breathing through the nostrils is healthier. The fine hairs on your nose called cilia filter out dust, allergens, germs, and environmental debris. Nasal breathing also hydrates incoming air, while dry air inhaled through the mouth can irritate the lungs, Dasgupta said.

“Nose breathing can lower blood pressure by increasing nitride oxide, a compound in your body that may be helpful in controlling your blood pressure,” he added.

Additionally, breathing through the nose is relaxing, which is why it is often recommended, along with yoga and meditation, as a way to promote sleep.

If, however, you decide you want to try mouth scotch, don’t stick your mouth horizontally like you’re hostage to a serial killer — even TikTok users point this out. Just a bit of tape placed vertically on the lips is supposed to work.

A small study from March, however, found that people who did this simply replaced mouth breathing with “mouth puffs,” in which research participants blew air in and out of their mouths. each side of the strip.

Overall, the “most important message” is to first get evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea before trying to sleep with your mouth taped, Dasgupta said.

“Once obstructive sleep apnea is completely ruled out, we can call it snoring,” he said. “Also, there are many other options to combat snoring besides mouth tape, such as nasal strips, nasal dilators, and mouth (and) throat and tongue exercises.”

Also avoid sleeping on your back, a position that encourages the opening of the mouth and the fall of the tongue in the throat. Pushing air past this blockage is what causes snoring.

Mouth breathing is often linked to allergies, colds and chronic nasal congestion. A deviated septum, which is the cartilage that separates your nostrils, can also be a cause – a crooked septum can block your airway. Nasal polyps can do the same, Dasgupta said.

Children may have enlarged adenoids, glands behind the nose designed to ward off bacteria and viruses. They shrink with age, so it’s not a common cause of mouth breathing in adults, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

All of these underlying elements medical issues can be addressed with a visit to an otolaryngologist or sleep specialist who can create a personalized treatment plan for you.

“These issues need to be addressed and assessed before mouth tape. In my opinion, taping your mouth shut probably won’t help you sleep better,” Dasgupta said.


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